Sex With A Porn User

July 1, 2016

in Uncategorized

On Monday, in Porn: It’s Not What You Think, I said porn isn’t about sex. In Wednesday’s Porn Can’t Compete With You I explained how porn is different than sex, and why you can’t and shouldn’t try to compete with it. But what do you do if your husband is stuck in porn or his ideas about sex come from porn?

He’d Think of it on His Own

First, let me address the idea most of what he wants to do with you sexually comes from porn. He may have seen it in porn, but that doesn’t mean he would never have thought of it or desired it on his own. Every man has in his mind a naked G.I. Joe doll and a naked Barbie doll. Since puberty, he’s been positioning those dolls in his mind, trying to come up with new ways to get their sexual bits together. Men think about sex a great deal, especially during the teen years when we have gallons of testosterone and little or no opportunity for contact with a real live female. Long before there were cameras to take porn images, every man thought up hundreds of ways to have sex. 

Porn exposure does skew a person’s interest. If he sees a thousand images of a couple having sex standing, he will have a greater desire for standing sex. But he’d have thought of and wanted to try standing sex even if he never saw porn. 

Did he see it in porn? Probably. He’s also seen kissing and every other thing you will ever do with him in bed. If you only do what he’s not seen in porn you won’t be having sex at all. Hate his porn use all you like but don’t use it as a reason to avoid certain acts. If you don’t want to engage in some sex act, tell him honestly why you’re not interested. If you find something gross or uncomfortable, tell him that.

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Remember Porn ≠ Sex

Do everything you can to see his porn use and your sex life together as two separate things. Of course, the porn hurts your sex life and your relationship as a whole. If he self-medicated with alcohol or gambling those things would also hurt your relationship and your sex life. Try to see his porn use the same way you would any other self-medication. I do understand this is difficult, but it’s the best thing for both of you.

What You Can Do

Ultimately he won’t deal with his porn use until he decides it’s a problem and he needs to deal with it. You might force him to do something, but if he’s doing it against his will or to shut you up it won’t work. He may get better at hiding it, but real change is not going to happen.

There are things you can do that will improve or hurt the chances of him deciding to deal with it.

Don’t attack, shame, or belittle him. This will cause pain, and he deals with pain by looking at porn. Sexual refusal is the same; it causes him pain and that tempts him to look at porn. Telling him you won’t have sex with him till he is free of porn just gives him more reasons to turn to porn for pain relief.  

It’s fair, and possibly helpful, to point out the real ways his porn use is hurting your relationship with him and the ability for both of you to enjoy sex. Again, treat it like any other form of pain medication. If he drank to the point of not being able to get an erection, alcohol would be limiting sex. Porn is the same thing.

Finally, try to show him what sex can be. Good sex with you won’t solve his porn problem, but it will reduce his pain some, which might make it easier for him to kick the porn. More importantly, you become a place of safety and intimacy. If he can learn to come to you to talk about his pain he’ll have less need for porn.

An Amazing Story

Let me finish with an amazing story we heard from a husband and wife a while back. The story mirrors a discussion Lori and I had almost a year ago when I asked her how she would react if she caught me looking at porn. 

The fellow in question went to his wife to confess his porn use. She was hurt, but she didn’t react with anger. She asked him hard questions about why he was using porn. She helped him see his triggers. After several hours of discussion, she took him by the hand, lead him to bed, and made love with him. 

This is the perfect response. She didn’t dismiss it as unimportant but also didn’t make it personal. She gave him a safe place to talk, which helped him see things more clearly. When she made love with him she was showing her love and forgiveness. She also showed him porn was not sex. I can imagine how humbled and broken her husband must have been by her taking him into her body after learning of his porn use (she had no idea it was going on). Any future porn use would be a violation of her love, forgiveness and grace, and that’s a far better preventative than shame or fear.

Looking for help?: Be Broken Ministries is the best there is in my mind. Check out their Wives Care.

~Paul – I’m XY

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{ 72 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah July 1, 2016 at 8:16 am

I can’t have sex with a man looking at porn. I have tried. It nearly destroyed our marriage as I felt like he had greatly debased me and turned me into a prostitute by getting aroused by other women and using me for his fulfillment.

He was an occasional looker. When I told him how I could not have sex with him without emotional pain when he was looking at porn, he immediately promised that it would never happen again. I made it clear that if he chose porn, he was choosing to not have sex with me. That he was in control. The ball was in his court. The decision was his.

To my knowledge, he’s never looked again except for once when he clicked through to something without meaning to but didn’t stop when he should have. I was wearing his favorite lingerie. I was watching over his shoulder. He jumped when he finally saw me. I heard under his breath, “You idiot!! You blew it tonight.”, threw down his phone and slept in the other bed. He slammed down the laundry that was sitting on it and angrily told the ceiling, “She wasn’t even pretty. Why did I do that?” I got an apology in the morning and a request to try again that night which we did, plus a promise to do his utmost to never do it again.

Maybe some women can do it, but for me, the associations are too deeply painful. I admire their fortitude and self-discipline over their emotion. That’s not me.

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Paul Byerly July 1, 2016 at 9:32 am

@Sarah – I can understand the “You choose” message, but forcing a sexless marriage LONG TERM is as much a sin as looking at porn use. If he won’t stop and she won’t have sex with him, they are both in sin, and odds are each it blaming the other for their own sin.
If ongoing porn use justifies no sex, then it also justifies divorce. That ups the stakes, which might be what both of them need.
Please note I’m not talking about what you did here. I’m talking about the woman who has refused sex all year because hubby looked at porn January 2nd.
Paul Byerly recently posted…Porn: Get Honest With HerMy Profile

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ac22dm July 1, 2016 at 12:12 pm

When I read this I thought wow it must be hard for the wife(or husband) that has to do these things but then I realize that my wife has done and is doing a lot of these things. One thing that really helped me to really start to fight my porn use was when my wife told me how my porn use made her feel. She felt ugly and inadequate and she is far from that. But what really helped was that she never condemned me. I know she was hurt but she didn’t make me feel like an awful pervert. she still told me she loved me. That and feeling Gods love has helped me to start fighting. Will I never look at porn again? I don’t know but I’m taking one day at a time and focusing on not looking at porn that day.

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Paul Byerly July 1, 2016 at 12:55 pm

@ac22dm – I think it does help to know how our actions hurt others. More motivation to change is a good thing.
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K July 1, 2016 at 1:26 pm

“This is the perfect response.”
No, there is no perfect response. Every situation is as unique as the people involved are. No single response is perfect for everyone. You also made it sound like a fairy tale where they then both ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. That is far from reality. I doubt this man never had a thought of looking at porn again or that his wife had no hurt feelings. I’m sure there was still much work to be done for both to heal.

Jason Martinkus from New Life Ministries says, “Confession day becomes the best day in the husband’s life and worst day in the wife’s life.” The husband feels great relief from releasing himself from all the hiding and secrecy while the wife’s life as she knows it comes crumbling down. “Life as she knows it” being the key phrase here. Everything she believed about her life may now be in question. Her trust is broken. Her heart is broken. Her sense of safety and security has been compromised. Granted, this may not be the case for everyone, but I think it’s much closer to reality than what you describe.

Once confession takes place, it becomes about healing for the wife. To suggest most wives don’t need or deserve to feel the feelings they feel or need things from the husband to help with their healing is wreck less and harmful. I don’t think that’s completely what you’re saying, but I think there is more than a hint of it in today’s post. Awareness of porn use being about medicating pain and identifying triggers is necessary and helpful for the both the husband and wife, but it will not keep most wives from experiencing pain, feeling betrayed and feeling unsafe with the one person who is supposed to be their protector.

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Paul Byerly July 1, 2016 at 8:02 pm

@K – Of course she needs healing, and yes that’s a process that takes time. But forgiveness is a powerful part of healing, and the faster we can forgive the better it is for US.

As to this couple, the woman had/has an amazing understanding of what porn is and what it’s not. This meant his confession didn’t hurt her nearly as much as it would have hurt most women. I don’t know why she understood this, or how she had such a strong sense of who she was, but it was a wonderful thing and it allowed the couple to weather this faster and with less pain than most couples. Of course, she was that way when he confessed, she didn’t will herself to do that, it’s what was in her. I wish I knew how to help other women feel as she did, for their sake and their marriages.
Paul Byerly recently posted…Porn: Get Honest With HerMy Profile

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K July 1, 2016 at 9:34 pm

So, what do you think she needs healing from and what exactly does she need to forgive? I’m asking with all sincerity because I’m not sure exactly what you believe the husband has done wrong. I know you disapprove of porn use and believe it is sinful. And, I know you said on TGH this week that the husband has sinned against his wife, but I’m not sure exactly why you think this when you completely separate it from sex and say that it’s all about self-medicating. Do you believe porn use is betrayal or infidelity? Do you believe porn use compromises sexual integrity? If not, what needs to be forgiven?

“But forgiveness is a powerful part of healing, and the faster we can forgive the better it is for US.”
Yes, forgiveness is for US and is a necessary part of the healing process. But, the idea that it needs to happen on some quick time line is not helpful. In fact, it can be harmful to the recovery and healing process. Again, everyone’s experience is different. Some people can forgive right away, others need time. Contrary to what many Christians want to believe, forgiveness is a process just like grief. The idea that I needed to forgive immediately impeded my healing and caused a lot of anxiety and stress. Once I realized forgiveness was a process and it was ok for me to do it in my own time, I was able to let go and begin that process. The key is I did decide from the very beginning I was going to work towards forgiveness. This was important for both myself and my husband. We both knew from the beginning I wanted to forgive and would do my part to work on that process. This helped both of us because he knew it would happen slowly over time and it allowed me the time I needed (need) to completely forgive.

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Paul Byerly July 2, 2016 at 2:09 pm

@K – She needs healing from his pointing his sexuality at something other than her. She needs healing from learning he has lied and deceived her. And she needs to forgive both of these things.
Most (all?) women would also need healing from various fears and self-doubt/self-image issues. I would argue his sin didn’t cause those things, only kicked them and made them hurt worse. If a woman didn’t have those things, his sin would not kick them and they wouldn’t be an issue. I’d guess the woman in question had dealt with those things better than many and that’s why she could react as she did.
He has sinned against her in many ways. He has lied and gone behind her back, and that would be a violation of their relationship even if the act were not wrong. He’s tried to connect his sexuality to something other than his wife. He’s perverted his understanding of sex and created desires she should not and can not meet. Is it infidelity? In that it includes lust for other woman, yes it is. He has committed adultery in his heart.
I’m not saying forgiveness needs to happen fast, I’m saying the faster it happens the better for the one who has been wronged.
Part of the problem is we don’t understand what forgiveness is – it’s both more and less than we generally think. We hold back because we aren’t ready to do things that aren’t actually part of forgiving.
If we understood forgiveness, if we saw it as it is, we would fight to forgive as fast as possible. Not for the other person, but for ourselves. But that’s a difficult thing and it takes a lot of growing and healing to get there. (I hope I get there someday!)
You did well to intend from the start to forgive. This shows great wisdom and maturity.
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K July 4, 2016 at 12:33 am

Would your advice to women be the same if a husband confesses to a physical affair or do you think that’s different in any way?

What do you feel the husband’s responsibility is once he confesses? In what ways, if any, would he participate in the wife’s healing?

How do you see forgiveness? The definition I heard and that made sense for my situation is you are forgiving a debt that can never be paid back. You have been wronged and there’s nothing your husband can ever do to make it up to you. So, you are forgiving him of that responsibility. When I thought of it that way, it made perfect sense and gave me something to work towards. And, I think that’s exactly what Jesus did for us. The difference is we are human and it usually takes time for us to be able to let go when the offense committed against us is great.

Do you believe the wife needs to grieve after learning of her husband’s porn use?

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Doug July 4, 2016 at 6:21 am

K,

please allow me to respond to your remarks. I was guilty of both habitual porn use, and an affair. I could spend pages writing why those things occurred, but the simple truth of the matter is that I was vulnerable and not strong enough in that vulnerability. I will say nothing more on the matter, because it is irrelevant to this discussion. When I confessed those things, I half expected the end of my marriage. The truth is, that many times over the last 20 years I probably would have welcomed that. There was just too much hurt on each side, and I never imagined we would make it to the “till death do us part”. It just seemed that there was going to be an end to it, and the only thing I didn’t know, was when it was going to happen. I never told her, and I wasn’t going to be the one to take that step, because as hollow as my commitment had become, my commitment was still for forever.

The only thing I will tell you, was from my side, that hurt came from being alone. You talk about grief in your last sentence, and I get that. Yes, you should grieve. I still grieve over the lost years that we were hurting each other.

Should a husband be allowed to grieve the loss of something that was taken from him and cant be replaced. I see a strange pattern here, where porn use is treated as an affront to the marriage that can not be redeemed. It can not be paid back. On the other hand, withholding love and affection is something that can be turned on and off by the wife, like a faucet, and that is ok. The damage is suddenly undone as soon as the water flows again.

That is not the case. You may be protecting yourself, you may be guarding your heart, but you are damaging the very thing that you claim you are trying to restore. You can not save your marriage that way, and if that is all you have to bring to bear, then file for divorce and be done with it. You can not fix it that way, but are only damaging it more.

I wish I had the answers but I don’t. I know one thing, and it became the overriding motive in how I acted. I knew I would never do anything that would hurt my wife again. That was all I had to cling to. I threw my heart on the floor, because it could not possibly be more broken than it was. My heart no longer mattered.

If your husband was here I would plead with him to take that same stance, but he isn’t. You are. The simple truth is that a great marriage needs both partners to have that attitude, but I know for a fact that one taking it can make things better.

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K July 4, 2016 at 1:08 pm

Doug, I appreciate your thoughts and your compassion. I’m also happy you and your wife have found a way back to each other and have been able to get past your situation.

As far as your comment, you are making many assumptions about my thoughts and my situation. Most, if not all, of these assumptions are false. Unfortunately, I know way too much about both topics – sexual refusal and porn use. To clarify, here are the facts regarding my situation.

I lived in a sexless marriage for over 2 decades with my husband being the refuser. He not only refused sex, but he withdrew affection and worked hard to make me believe he didn’t enjoy sex. During some of the years he refused me, he used porn. His refusal was not a by-product of his porn use. It was more so the other way around.

Despite all of this, both of us would say that we’ve always had a strong, intimate marriage. Yes, sexual intimacy was lacking but we’ve always had a very intimate, loving marriage in every other way. I have NEVER refused my husband once in our entire marriage. Including immediately after learning of his porn use. And, even now that we are no longer sexless, I am much more the driver in our sex life than my husband. My husband is an amazing man whom I love very much. He made mistakes, but his mistakes were never enough to cost him my love, affection or my desire to be sexually intimate with him. I am still healing from all the hurt my husband caused me, but I am getting better. We are both working hard on the process every day.

To be clear, I’ve never said, nor do I believe, a wife has the right to sentence her husband to a sexless marriage because of his transgressions. I do, however, believe there is a HUGE difference between needing some time to heal and figure out exactly what you’re dealing with before being ready to give yourself to the person who has just betrayed you and sentencing your spouse to a sexless marriage.

My contention is that every situation is uniquely different. Therefore, there is no “one size fits all” solution or response to hearing this news. I’m trying to better understand what Paul believes the husband’s role is once he confesses and what exactly he thinks the wife needs to help her heal.

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Doug July 4, 2016 at 3:42 pm

K,

I am sorry. You are correct than I made some unbased assumptions. That was wrong of me. Ultimately, I don’t think it would have changed my response, other than to be more understanding.

There is no perfect marriage, and we all face some of the same struggles, and some of us face different struggles. The only thing that I know works perfectly in every case is Grace, but I don’t know how you acquire that. It can’t be a ballance of sin against sin, because that only spirals into a worse situation. It can’t be hope without promise, because that will not carry you thru difficult times.

All I know is that for my marriage to be saved, is that I had to give up all expectations and deal with my own sins. I don’t know if that would have worked if my wife had not joined me at that point. It could have gone the opposite direction. Knowing that it might have gotten worse or completely destroyed what I was hoping for, makes it impossible to recommend that anyone should follow suit.

There simply is no answer that exists outside your own heart to some of the questions you pose

Paul Byerly July 4, 2016 at 1:30 pm

@K – I’d say forgiveness is the same regardless of this sin. Yes, some sins hit us harder and that makes it more difficult, but again, that’s about us.
My advice to a man who has violated his wife’s trust is to go out of his way to be open and transparent. He needs to understand he has broken trust and rebuilding that takes time. It’s not just about him having changed, it takes time for his wife to know and believe that. Yes, she may get stuck and need help, but men usually expect women to “more on” far too quickly (but then we do the same to ourselves.). He also needs to understand it’s not a steady march to healing. Some days are better than others, and bad days can happen without warning. Judging the healing should be done looking at large blocks of time. Fewer horrible days is a good indicator it’s getting better. Finally. both of them need to be aware his sins may kick up things in her which are unrelated but will not feel connected. Healing over what he did may get delayed while she deals with some of her own stuff.

I see forgiving as releasing someone. You give up the “right” to retaliate, and you give up the expectation they will somehow fix it or undo the pain. I think that’s pretty much the same as what you said.

Grief is certainly a part of the process. Among other things, hopefully, she will get to the point of grieving what he did to himself and the things in his life that moved him to make the choices he made.
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K July 5, 2016 at 10:44 am

Thanks for the clarification. This is much more in line with what I thought you believed than what your article depicts (IMO). Your response to M also represents a much truer representation of what I think you feel and of what is necessary during the healing process.

I don’t think you intended this, but I think this article comes across as lacking compassion, empathy and understanding of the gravity of what one experiences when they learn they have been sexually betrayed by their husband. I also think you hesitate to call out in a strong way what has truly taken place, sexual betrayal. I felt this in your related TGH articles as well. No matter what the cause (self-medicating or otherwise), the husband has chosen to act out in sexual ways. By doing so, he has lied repeatedly. He has cheated his wife out of the life she imagined and signed up for. He has betrayed his marriage vows.

Your first 2 articles in this series were spent telling women they are not responsible for their husband’s porn use. But, this article seems to put the majority of the responsibility on the wife after the confession takes place. You’re basically telling women their response determines whether or not their husband will turn to porn again. While I agree with the pain/triggers part of what you’re saying, putting this responsibility on the wife is extremely unfair and insensitive. At any point a husband turns to porn, it is HIS choice and IS NOT the responsibility of his wife. Just as she did not cause his porn use to begin with, NOTHING she does after confession causes his continued porn use or slip ups. He and he alone is responsible for that choice.

In your story of the couple, I think you left out the most important part – what happend in the days, weeks and months after her initial response. You made it sound like because she asked hard questions, then forgave him (and you did make it sound immediate, which is possible but highly unlikely) and took him to bed right away, he is now cured, her hurt was minimal and there was not much work or healing left to do. If that’s truly what happened, I’d bet there is some serious denial going on for both of them.

I asked about grief because there are stages one goes through. Anger is one of those stages. Husbands and wives need to be told to expect anger. If the wife is dealing with her grief, she will feel extremely angry at times. Also, the stages of grief are not linear. Most people will cycle through them in various ways, coming in and out of stages more than once. Anger is necessary for complete healing to take place.

After confession, there is a lot of work necessary by both parties. These are not black and white issues. There is no perfect response. And, in some cases, serious boundaries do need to be set.

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K July 5, 2016 at 12:58 pm

@Doug
Thanks and no apology necessary.

K July 5, 2016 at 1:15 pm

Paul, I was in a hurry and posted quickly earlier. I want to make sure you know I’m not saying you lack compassion or sensitivity around this issue. I just think the article could come across that way. The direction you took with this article took me off-guard and definitely stirred up some emotions around both porn use and sexual refusal. In my case, I’m healing as much or more from the refusal than the poem use. I’m not backing down from anything I said above, but hope you know it wasn’t meant as a personal attack. I apologize if it came off that way.

You have been a huge help in my healing. I have great respect for the work you and Lori do.

Paul Byerly July 5, 2016 at 7:04 pm

@K – I think a woman’s response can help or hurt a man’s chances of getting free, but it’s all on him. Some men will stay with porn no matter what their wife does, some will get free no matter what. (Check out I Would Want it Without Having Seen Porn a post I did on TGH two years ago to see how hard I was on the men.)
For the couple I mentioned, it was rather fast and easy. He was ready to and dedicated to change, and she was as helpful as she could be. From talking to her I get the feeling she never felt the personal injury many women feel. For whatever reason, I think she knew it was not about her and so she was able to avoid all that. Of course, there was injury and they had to rebuild parts of their relationship, but talking to them a couple of years later it seems they did that very effectively.
When I said perfect response I meant what she did was the best possible thing for him. This is based on who each of them is and the fact he confessed and was really repentant.
Thanks for the follow-up note. No harm, no foul. I’m glad to know how you heard it, and I need to consider why it came across differently than what I meant. (You were not the only one, so I’m putting it on me.)
Paul Byerly recently posted…Change Yourself, Change Your MarriageMy Profile

Doug July 5, 2016 at 8:51 pm

“In your story of the couple, I think you left out the most important part – what happend in the days, weeks and months after her initial response. You made it sound like because she asked hard questions, then forgave him (and you did make it sound immediate, which is possible but highly unlikely) and took him to bed right away, he is now cured, her hurt was minimal and there was not much work or healing left to do. If that’s truly what happened, I’d bet there is some serious denial going on for both of them.”

K, my wife and I are not the subject of the example mentioned above, but I can assure you that what was described in that story mirrored my own exactly. There was absolutely no denial on my part. I expected my marriage to be over when I confessed, and I had moved beyond denial into acceptance. In my wifes case. I am still amazed by her response, but it was pretty much how Paul described it. We cried for quite some time, and then she took me to bed. My confession was written out and quite detailed, so it is possible that she had unanswered questions, but I did my best to answer them before she had to form them. I am ashamed to say that my porn use was not really a secret or a surprise for her, so she had probably spent a lot of time in the various stages of grief prior to my confession. It may well have been that my confession was all that was needed to provide closure, and allow her to move into forgiveness. I can’t answer that question. I can assure you that it all took place in a single afternoon, and for the last year, things have improved beyond my wildest expectations. We still have spats, but there has not been an angry word spoken in this house for over a year.

K July 6, 2016 at 11:33 am

@Paul, I’m replying to your last post in the string here because I didn’t have a reply button on your comment.

“Of course, there was injury and they had to rebuild parts of their relationship, but talking to them a couple of years later it seems they did that very effectively.”

“When I said perfect response I meant what she did was the best possible thing for him. This is based on who each of them is and the fact he confessed and was really repentant.”

That’s it! These are the critical pieces missing from that section of the post. I think if you had included these statements, it would have been more accurate and not come across as “This is how every women should respond.”.

Giving generic advice is hard. When giving advice to individuals, the advice would be tailored to their specific situation and needs. When giving advice to the masses, it’s difficult to hit all the bases. Overall, I think you do a great job of this!

K July 6, 2016 at 11:39 am

Oh, I guess I had found the correct reply button!

@Doug,
Wow! Your wife sounds like an amazing women. You are fortunate to have her. It sounds like she had known things prior to your confession and had been dealing with them for herself already.

My question about this is trust. Was there not work left to do to rebuild trust?

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Doug July 6, 2016 at 12:26 pm

K
I don’t think that I’m the best person to answer that question, but I will try.
Since she already knew of the porn, it I likely that the confession was the catalyst for the trust to be possible. She didn’t know the extent, but she was aware of it. It isn’t like we had sex every night after that, because I was only home on weekends. That could have created a lot of doubt in her mind, but she had a lot of time to process things away from me. The weekends were our time together, and those were amazing. All I know was what I saw, and I never saw her doubt me again after that, in any instance. The question of trust is hard for me to wrap my mind around, because it would have been east enough for me to continue, and conceal. She knew that and chose to believe in me. That in itself was a powerful motivator.

Doug July 6, 2016 at 12:37 pm

K
I neglected to address this so let me add it. Yes, my wife is an amazing woman. She has her flaws as we all do, but she is loyal to a fault. I would like to think that on some levels, I earned that loyalty, despite my shortcomings, but if the responses I see here are typical, then I see even more clearly how fortunate I am. That is not intended to be a jab, but I might encourage every woman facing this down, to look at the whole.

Paul Byerly July 7, 2016 at 12:53 pm

@K – Reading it again I see why you read it as you did. Perhaps “This WAS the perfect response” instead of “IS” would have made it about them rather than all couples.
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K July 7, 2016 at 11:28 am

@Doug
She may have processed a lot while you were away. It’s also possible she did have some doubts, but didn’t voice them to you. Maybe that’s because she didn’t feel it was necessary. I don’t tell my husband every doubt and fear I have. For us, trust has been built back by talking about it. From the beginning, my husband’s attitude and actions have demonstrated remorse and change. I know his heart so I do feel I can trust him, but I have needed and still need verbal reassurance. Everyone is different and we handle and process things differently.

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K July 7, 2016 at 2:53 pm

@Paul
Yes, that would be the perfect solution. (Pun intended) Simple change, big difference!

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libl July 1, 2016 at 6:51 pm

You don’t pop the top of a brewsky with an alcoholic. You don’t smoke a joint with a drug addict. You don’t play poker with a gambling addict. You don’t bake a triple layer cheesecake for a compulsive over eater. So, Why do you have to have sex with a porn addict/user?

I’m with the commenter who says that if he’s actively using porn, then he is choosing to not have sex with her. That, I think, is a good boundary.

Now, if he is repentant, then I can see having sex with him.

I just wish men would get how painful it is to us wives without saying, “you’re overreacting”
or “that’s a little extreme.”

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Paul Byerly July 1, 2016 at 7:55 pm

@libl – According do the Bible, ongoing sexual refusal in marriage is sin. While we like to make one sin worse than another, I don’t think God sees it that way. If she refuses sex because he keeps using porn then she is also sinning.
I don’t think “Look at porn and live in a sexless marriage” is a biblically valid choice. I don’t think “have sex and look at porn too” is valid either. The difference is the first is two sins, while the second is one sin.
If it’s bad enough to end a couple’s sex life, then the marriage should end too. I’m not at all happy saying that, but I don’t see any way around it biblically speaking. What this comes down to is the question of whether or not porn is justifiable cause for divorce.

All that said, I agree it would be good for men to understand how horrible porn use is. Of course, a lot of men would say it would be good for women to understand how horrible sexual refusal is. Maybe we could work on both of those?
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Amy July 1, 2016 at 9:21 pm

This is called setting boundaries. And it’s also the consequence of sin. Is refusing sex a sin? Hmmm, not sure on that one. Yes, sex is a vital component of marriage and we are not to deny one another except through mutual consideration, but if one spouse is hurting the other and refuses to stop…and porn is definitely hurtful to the relationship…then not having sex may be a consequence. It’s not about just forgiving…forgiveness can and should happen but doesn’t mean to ignore the wrongful action or behavior, or to automatically put trust into someone who has hurt us.

Good for the woman in the story for being able to overlook her husband’s hurtful behavior and hopefully he was truly repentant and chose to change. But I can tell you from personal experience that not all men choose this route and go on to allow porn to control their lives and ruin relationships. And even if they would have imagined a sexual act without viewing it in porn as you stated, seeing it portrayed in porn often makes the desire for that act more enticing and can drive a person to wanting it so much they push and push until their spouse gives in to something which is not loving or healthy.
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K July 1, 2016 at 9:46 pm

Thank you. This is well stated. There is a big difference between ongoing refusal and saying no for a time period to allow for healing.

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Paul Byerly July 2, 2016 at 2:13 pm

@Amy – The woman didn’t overlook it, she forgave it. She did not then go on as if it hadn’t happened; she saw it as a couple issue and she was active in helping him gain the freedom he wanted.
And yes, some men are not interested in getting free. When a man is caught, rather than confessing as the man I mentioned here did, things are different. Sometimes being caught leads to conviction and repentance, but all too often it leads to anger, fear, excuses and justification.
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libl July 2, 2016 at 6:22 am

http://leslievernick.com/often-see-suggesting-withholding-sex-consequence-spouse-abusive-behavior-way-perhaps-invite-change/

More and more women are taking a stronger stand because frankly, we are sick of being doormat enablers to unrepentant men taking advantage of our nice girl Christianity, forgivness, meekness and self blame that has been drilled in our heads.

Fact is, breaking the fidelity and sanctity of your marriage sexual relationship by using pornography results in a lack of sexual intimacy. No woman should have to put out just because “withholding is sin.” God, Himself withholds from us when we are unrepentant. If you treat your wife harshly, your prayers are hindered. Unrepentant hearts may be turned hard. There are numerous Psalms of David asking for forgiveness and asking God to not turn away from him.

Sure, I can open my legs for my husband any time, but even if we go through the mechanics of sex, my emotions, my heart would be broken, hurting, and fighting bitterness and resentfulness. I would fear enabling his problem, or masking the seriousness of it because men tend to feel relationships are ok when sex is frequent, even if the wife feels like it is dying.

Saying a loving wife doesn’t withhold sex because of unrepentant porn use is like saying a loving God doesn’t send people to hell because of unrepentant sin. It isn’t infidelity, after all. It isn’t like they are Hitler. Listen, God doesn’t have to send people to hell. They choose to walk there themselves by not taking Christ’s path. Same as unrepentant porn-using husbands choose not to have sex with their wives by choosing porn over her.

You cannot love both God and mammon. You cannot use both porn and have sex with your wife.

The Bible says not to deprive your spouse. But it also says many many more times to avoid fornication, lewdness, adultery, pornography, etc. Not to mention that using porn IS depriving your spouse. Is treating your wife harshly. The Bible says such will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. This is serious stuff!

Again, a repentant husband is a whole other issue. Christ welcomes the repentant with open arms and blessings. Spouses should do the same. I am willing to fight the battle with my husband. But I am not casting my pearls before swine, either.

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Paul Byerly July 2, 2016 at 2:36 pm

@libl – I’m all for a strong stand. My problem is saying “no sex” alone is a half step. I’m not arguing the seriousness of the sin, I’m arguing that no sex as the only consequence is both wrong and ineffective.
I know plenty of men who have lived in sexless marriages for years because of porn. It’s not working; they still use porn and nothing is changing. A few reasons this approach is flawed:
1) If a woman has refused sex for less than valid reasons, then this just looks like her taking advantage of the situation to avoid sex. If this is the case, then it just makes the man mad and in his own mind gives him justification for his sin. If a woman had never refused sex for less than valid reasons this does not apply. Unfortunately, this leaves us with a minority of women.
2) No sex till you stop using porn makes the wife a parent, checking up on hubby and then rewarding or punishing him based on her perception of how well he’s done. This leads to resentment, and can cause him to get better at hiding his sin. If a man wants to use porn and not get caught his wife will have to spend huge amounts of time tracking his on-line use. This is not healthy for her and destroys their marriage.
3) No sex is private. His sin is not exposed. This works for the man, because who wants the world to know what he’s doing? The Bible tells us ongoing sin is to be exposed.

Even if I thought it was biblically valid, I’d argue against it as flawed and ineffective. A “cure” that can’t work is worse than nothing because it prevents the person from seeking a real cure.

If asking him to get help does not work, and the women feels something must be done then I think the next step is a separation. This is saying the issue is a major, potentially marriage-ending problem. It makes it public, encouraging prayer and allowing for wise counsel. I bet you won’t find porn using husbands who like this idea. They will put up with a sexless marriage but this idea strikes terror in their hearts.
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libl July 2, 2016 at 7:04 am

Here’s another analogy I just thought of.

A man gets caught driving drunk a few times. He has been ticketed, paid the fine, but caught again. This time the courts revoke his license to drive. He argues with them.

“I need to drive to work! I took the classes and paid the fees to get that license. I should be able to keep it! I bought my car with my own money! I pay the insurance, change its oil, wash and wax it, detail the interior, I should be able to drive my car! It’s not like I got into an accident and killed or hurt someone. That proves I can drive just fine with a few drinks in my system.”

The court says, “No. Because of your repeat drunk driving charges that you seem to have no control over or desire to change your ways, we have deemed you a safety hazard and danger to our roadways. Therefore, until you get the help you need to resolve this matter and prove you are not going to drive drunk again, you can no longer have a license to drive. When you paid your license fees, you made a promise not to break the laws of the road. You broke the law, and even show disregard for the law, the safety of your family, yourself, and other drivers, therefore, no driving.”

I believe sex in marriage is like driving in that it is a right and a privilege. We must stay within the boundaries of the law and fulfill the licensing requirements. But the system cannot deny you your right to drive once the requirements are fulfilled….so long as you stay within the boundaries. You can drive the country roads or the freeways. You can drive across the US or just around town. You can choose a k-car or a jacked up pick up. You can listen to Elton John or Metallica. You can hang a vanilla stinky in the car or let it smell like stale fast food. But you cannot break the law and expect to keep on driving.

In the USA, we have the right to own guns, but if we kill someone with a gun, no more guns. That’s like an actual affair. But, if you commit a felony, you cannot own a gun anymore. That’s like porn. Even if your felony had nothing to do with guns (sex), you still lose the right to own a gun.

Is not a wife and the sanctity of sex in marriage with her more than driving and guns?

I think men see “sex in marriage” as it’s own entity. It’s own right. They forget that it is WITH HER. Her feelings, her rights, her humanity and sexuality are not to be put second to the entity of sex in marriage. You cannot have one without the other.

Is it wrong or abusive for the government to deny a drunk driver the right to drive to work? Or would you say that it is a wise and just consequence to a very serious actions of an unrepentant or addicted/uncontrolled man?

Is it against the constitution (metaphor for God’s Word) to deny an American citizen (husband) the right to gun ownership (sex in marriage) when he shoots other people or commits felonies?

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Paul Byerly July 2, 2016 at 2:40 pm

@libl – “I believe sex in marriage is like driving in that it is a right and a privilege.”
I hear what you mean. I do. The problem is the Bible puts it differently. The Bible makes it more than a right. Paul says refusing sex is stealing from our spouse something that is their’s Saying no to sex is not taking the drive’s license, it’s taking the car the person owns.
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libl July 3, 2016 at 7:18 am

So is using porn in marriage. How can she have sex with him when he’s stolen her car and drove it off a cliff?

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Paul Byerly July 3, 2016 at 9:07 am

@libl – My point is this: if she can’t have sex with him the marriage is over and she needs to leave. If she’s not willing to leave, she needs to figure out how to have sex.
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K July 4, 2016 at 1:11 am

Couldn’t you say the same about the husband? If he felt compelled (for any reason) to turn his sexual energy toward any source besides his wife, shouldn’t he have ended the marriage first?

If his trigger for choosing porn is sexual refusal, you’re saying the marriage is already over. So, should he have ended the marriage instead of turning to porn?

And, suppose as you said in your response to J below that the husband has been refusing his wife because of his porn use. Does his refusal mean the marriage is over and he should leave?

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Doug July 4, 2016 at 6:46 am

K

I’m going to respond here as well, because you might have well have been speaking to me based on the questions.

We don’t always get things right. Sometimes we do things like stay in failed marriages because of other reasons. I stayed in mine because I made a commitment. I won’t call that a mistake, and it has proven to be a real blessing, but at any time over the last 20 years, either of us could have left and the world would have said it was the right thing to do. We both had spent that time giving the other good reason. I can’t say why she never left me. It seemed almost inevitable to me after our son moved from home. Maybe it was the uncertainty. Maybe an evil that she knew was more appealing than one that she didn’t. For my part, it was probably a mix of pride, and that same uncertainty. There was little doubt that I would have continued supporting her financially, and I simply didn’t know how to support us both separately, and regardless of everything, I couldn’t just abandon her without caring for her welfare.

In large part, our marriage was a mutually beneficial financial arrangement, but even then, it was difficult to see the benefit.

That isn’t to say that we didn’t have wonderful moments in that time. That would not be true, because we did. Without them, we probably would not have made it. Still, they were barely enough to sustain even a pretense of devotion to each other. We were both in it for ourselves. Sometimes, that is enough to live together, but I would not call it a marriage anymore.

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K July 4, 2016 at 1:31 pm

Doug, thanks for your input. But, my questions here really are directed at Paul based on his assessment the marriage is over if the wife can’t (immediately???) have sex with her husband.

Does the same thought process not apply to the husband? Shouldn’t he have left the marriage before betraying his wife? Or, is this somehow different because sexual refusal is considered to “be about him and how he feels love”, whereas, his porn use is considered to “not be about you and should not be taken as such”?

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Paul Byerly July 6, 2016 at 9:41 am

@K – I failed to reply to the “(immediately???)” part of your comment.
No, not immediately. Be nice if she could, and some women can, but I suspect most could not. But that’s about her, not him, and dealing with it is on her, not him.
The problem is when she decides he has to earn the right to have sex again. As already discussed in this thread he can’t do that. Assuming he’s truly repentant and doing all he can to stay free of porn, resuming sex is all down to her. Needing a few days to work through things is to be expected. Needing a few months is something else – possibly punishment.
I think a lot of marriage problems become life-long roadblocks to intimacy because the wronged person can’t let go. It’s like we go from being the victim to being the victimiser. Both men and women do it, and we do it over all kinds of things.
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K July 8, 2016 at 1:47 pm

@Paul
Just saw this reply. That makes sense and I agree with it. It’s sad this happens too often.

Paul Byerly July 4, 2016 at 1:42 pm

@K – If he’s being refused sex completely or almost completely, then yes the situation is similar. He certainly should have done something other than turning to porn, but I would argue in most situations her refusal is, at best, tangential to his porn use. Plenty of refused men don’t use porn and plenty of men who can have all they sex they want are using porn regularly. Porn is one of a myriad of self-medicating choices, and refusal is only one of thousands of triggers.

I’m not pushing anyone to end their marriage. I’m saying certain things are in effect an ending of the marriage, and pretending to others to still be married at that point is a bad thing. Either have the guts to stand up and say we’re not married or work to fix the problems. Don’t agree to live in a lie.
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K July 7, 2016 at 3:48 pm

I’ve been pondering this. I see what you’re saying, but just can’t really wrap my head around it completely. How does one know when it’s not really a marriage anymore and is living a lie?

Many people would say we were living a lie if they knew our marriage was sexless for decades. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. We had an issue that took years to face and deal with. This didn’t mean our marriage was a lie or that we were “just roommates”, as many would say. In fact, my husband and I believe our marriage was just as strong, if not stronger, than a lot of marriages where the sexual relationship is working. It’s possible for a couple to have great sex, but have major issues in other areas they aren’t ready and able to face. Does that make them more married than us? I don’t think so. I think it makes them a married couple with different problems.

Is our marriage more complete now? Yes, I’d say definitely. Something very special was missing. Does sex make us even closer? Yes, it does. But, that doesn’t mean we weren’t closer than many couples while we were in the mist of the sexlessness.

I guess it comes down to how you define marriage. Is marriage defined by sex? A lot of people think it is. I, personally, don’t think marriage is sex. There is so much more. Shared hopes and dreams, unconditional support, mutual love and respect, and willingness to stick out the “worse” part of “for better or worse” are just a few of the components of a marriage. Sex is important and plays into these other things, but it is only a part.

Sometimes, it takes years for couples or individuals to face their issues. Who’s to say when and what is the end of a marriage? I’d willingly endure all the pain and hurt all over again if it meant having to live without my husband. That’s not me turning a blind eye to the problems or being codependent, it’s me making a choice. Living in a sexless marriage for years until my husband was ready to face his issues, was the choice and commitment I made. It wouldn’t be the right choice for everyone, but it was the right choice for us.

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Doug July 7, 2016 at 6:25 pm

” I’d willingly endure all the pain and hurt all over again if it meant having to live without my husband.”

That is a great sentiment. I have been forced to examine things myself lately, and I have asked myself that question. I have to be honest and admit that while I might be tempted to say that, I’m not entirely sure that it wouldn’t be denial or deflection. While my commitment to my wife was flawed I would never have left her. For much of the last 20 years tho, had she left me, I wouldn’t have liked it, and I would have seen it as a loss and a failure, but I likely would have welcomed it in my heart.

It is easy to say now, because our marriage is healed, but I am not sure I could go thru everything again without that certainty.

Paul Byerly July 8, 2016 at 11:15 am

@K – What you say about your choice sounds a lot like something I’m working on as a requested post about living in a deeply broken marriage. I get what you’re saying, and I agree, not right for everyone, but it’s who I am and what I would have to do.
I will also say your marriage is the exception. Few sexless marriages stay strong in other ways, and even fewer can maintain a good sex life when the rest of the marriage is a mess.
My argument was it’s not right for one person to unilaterally end sex based on their spouse’s actions. If it’s that bad, then they should end the marriage. If it’s not bad enough to end the marriage, then they have no right to end sex.
Jesus says divorce comes from hardness of heart. Sometimes the hard heart belongs to the one who was wronged. Yes, the other person sinned against them, but their unwillingness to work past it is what kills the marriage.
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K July 8, 2016 at 1:08 pm

@Paul
I agree, my marriage is the exception in these circumstances. How much do beliefs play into this though? Beliefs determine our thoughts and actions. How many people have poor relationships partially because of what they believe about their situation? How might different beliefs influences the choices they make? How might different beliefs influence where people put their focus and how would this impact the relationship? I think my beliefs played a major role in how I viewed our relationship and allowed me to focus on the good instead of the bad.

“My argument was it’s not right for one person to unilaterally end sex based on their spouse’s actions.”
I agree. I’m not sure that’s what’s happening in all cases where someone needs to set boundaries with a spouse who continues a porn habit. If it’s for the purpose of trying to save the marriage and not for the purpose of getting revenge. I’m not talking about a slip up of someone who’s trying. I’m talking about someone who hasn’t made the commitment to stop. This might be the measure a wife needs to take to fight for the marriage before deciding it can’t be salvaged.

“Jesus says divorce comes from hardness of heart. Sometimes the hard heart belongs to the one who was wronged.”
I’d guess that’s the case in many instances. Or, it’s a tit for tat kind of thing that causes both hearts to harden.

K July 8, 2016 at 12:20 pm

@Doug,
My beliefs about marriage are a big part of it. I’ve never believed marriage is sex. I never bought into the “roommate” lie that is prevalent among many experts in the marriage and sex help world. This influenced my choices greatly. Among my choices was to find contentment and happiness in a hurtful situation. I chose to focus more on what we had rather than what was missing. I fought by continuing to pursue my husband even with constant rejection. I never lost hope. I accepted the situation for what it was, but always held out hope for things to change. I could have found another sex partner, but I could not have found anyone who would be a better match for me.

I’m not sure how I would feel if our overall relationship had not been good. If that were the case, my choices may have been different and I might feel differently today about what I would endure. But, then again, maybe my choices helped ensure the relationship was good, which allowed things to change and heal after so many years of hurt.

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Doug July 8, 2016 at 1:30 pm

K,
Your example is a good one to follow. I won’t go into details except to say that we were both hanging onto hurt that we didn’t know how to let go of, so rather than reaching out to each other, we didn’t so much push the other away as much as pull away ourselves and wait for the other to make some sort of move. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad, but really, neither of us could make that leap of faith, so the distance between us was pretty constant. We could close the gap on occasion, but couldn’t maintain it. I’m not going to go into details. It’s enough to say that it was a pretty big hurt, and each of us laid it onto the other. It predated my porn use and affair by 10 years.

I don’t disagree with anything you said, but it really didn’t apply to us except in the barest sense. We honestly spent most of our time living single lives, where we didn’t even have a chance to close the gap, so things were in stasis for a long time. I blamed that on work before, but I could have done something different. It was more comfortable to isolate myself, but the was a miserable existence as well.

I guess the thing that is remarkable is that you and I had very different journeys, and still, our marriages arrived at largely the same place. That is a strong argument for just adding grace to the mix and seeing what happens. When I confessed my sins, she could see that it wasn’t her fault, but it opened her eye to what my existence had been like, and it was not what she imagined. I know there are hurt people and damaged marriages out there, but I can honestly not imagine one that was as broken as ours, for as long as ours was, and we made it back. If that is the case, then I cannot imagine a marriage that can’t be restored.

J. Parker July 2, 2016 at 8:00 am

I totally get what you’re saying, and you know I tend to agree with you Paul. But I want to clarify a couple of things here:

1. “Long before there were cameras to take porn images, every man thought up hundreds of ways to have sex.” I’m just not sure anymore that it’s every man, given how many wives I hear from with disinterested husbands.

2. I concur that kissing, sexual intercourse, oral sex, etc. might be displayed in porn and we wouldn’t have an issue with our husbands wanting that. BUT I’m not sure your take acknowledges how hard-core porn has become. Plenty of women I hear from complaining that their husbands want to do something they’ve seen in porn report rather extreme practices, even harmful to a woman. Wives typically recognize the influence of porn in those suggestions, because they aren’t the stuff of naked G.I./naked Barbie. And it’s an attitude a husband has gotten from porn that his wife is his personal sex toy rather than his intimacy partner that feels offensive to the woman. What do you think?
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Paul Byerly July 2, 2016 at 2:46 pm

@J. Parker – Have at me friend, I can take it! ;-)
1) Disinterested is a tricky term. Unwilling to do what it takes to have real sex with a real woman does not mean a man lacks sexual thoughts or desire. I’d bet most men refusing their wives look at porn, and virtually all the rest have done so in the past. In fact, the porn is likely a huge part of why they say to their wife.
2) You’re right – some of it is beyond what most men could imagine without help. I stand corrected on that. But much of what women reject because “he saw it in porn” most men would have thought up on their own without porn. The attitude is the real problem. When his wife is a toy for his pleasure the marriage is in big trouble.
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Amy July 2, 2016 at 7:27 pm

Perhaps I used the wrong word — overlook — and maybe this woman did completely forgive. The problem is as you stated in your reply above, we don’t always understand exactly what forgiveness entails. Yes, forgiveness is for the offended more so than the offender because most often they are not even aware of having been forgiven.

The issue I see is the idea of forgive quickly. Most of the time that does not happen and when it appears to happen there may not be a real sincere forgiveness. Forgiving such a grave offense against us often needs lots of prayer and time. It can become easy to hang onto bitterness and resentment when we forgive right away and it may be that some equate forgiveness with overlooking an issue.

And then to say the woman saw it as a couple issue may cause issues too. Of course his porn use causes issues in the marriage, but just like alcoholism and abuse, porn is actually a individual issue in which that person has to actively pursue getting better. My ex watched porn, not because of anything I did or didn’t do. It was NOT a couple or marriage issue, it was HIS issue. That doesn’t mean the spouse offended by the porn use doesn’t help support their spouse as they get help but calling it a couple or marriage issue takes the bulk of the responsibility off of the offender. It now lays at least partial blame on the offended even if not intended. Of course we help our spouse if they are dealing with something sinful in their life, but it’s important I believe to differentiate between what is a couple issue and what is an individual sin issue.

Just my .02 cents.
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Paul Byerly July 3, 2016 at 8:59 am

@Amy – I see anything that affects a marriage as a couple issue. That’s just how it works for me. My wife’s abuse as a kid was a couple issue – it was us against the problem. I’d say the same about drug use or anything else, PROVIDED the spouse in sin is willing to see it and treat it the same way and work on it.
As to fast forgiving, I’d say Jesus set the example on the cross when He forgave those who had hung him there. Of course, He’s perfect, which makes it easier, but I still think it shows us how it should be. That we fall short is to be expected, but that is about us, not those who have sinned against us. (And please understand that my thinking this is how it should be done not mean I have arrived and do it!)
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J. Parker July 6, 2016 at 6:09 am

Yes, I have heard wives who refuse acceptable acts (even like wearing lingerie) because he saw something in porn, and I agree with you that’s not a good argument or a good attitude. I wonder, however, if I’m hearing more about the kinky stuff husbands are asking their wives to do because those are the women in distress enough to write me, or if what I see really reflects a shift.

Thanks for your answer!
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Paul Byerly July 6, 2016 at 9:44 am

@J. Parker – Your question is important, but how can we know? Beyond that, because of what we do we hear from those who are broken and suffering. We don’t get a picture of the norm, we get a picture of those hurt enough to look for help.
My best guess is it’s gotten worse and women are more willing to talk about it and seek help. The combination makes for an avalanche.
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Ysmith July 3, 2016 at 5:37 am

Worst for me was the fact that this had been ongoing for 15 years without my knowledge. That he was so juvenile that he would rather sneak around doing this than confront me with the fact that 1 or 2x a week wasnt enough. That he took the easy way out. Once we realized that avoidance type behavior was the root cause, that was really when the healing started and it was a few months after confession. Up till then I kept feeling, something wasnt right but I couldnt put my finger on it. A year and a half later we have really come so far and learned about avoidance tactics, saw other areas in our life where it was happening…mostly raising our son…I think its part of American culture lately to do the easy thing, even when its not the right thing. Give the kid a screen to shut him up or heaven forbid you teach him how to behave in a restaurant! Let my wife think Im staisfied in every way rather than confront her with the truth…the devil is subtle indeed.

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Paul Byerly July 3, 2016 at 9:01 am

@Ysmith – We do tend towards the easy way. Avoidance feels safer, and it’s far less work. Glad you have seen this and are working to change it in your family.
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Doug July 3, 2016 at 7:41 am

I missed this conversation earlier, but I think that I might have something worth hearing, so I am going to chime in.
First, for those who have been hurt by pornography use, I am deeply sorry, Nobody should have to endure that. I will go further and say that only a year ago, I was among the very worst offenders, and I struggle with guilt and regret that I did that to the woman I told that I would always protect. I have been clean for a year now.

For those of you who speak to the need to protect yourself, I get that. I was also hurt deeply by something. I won’t discuss it here except to say that it involved my wife. I also had a need to protect myself, and I found that protection in anger/rage, and the escapism of pornography and eventually an affair and finally, almost total isolation. All of my behavior has been confessed and repented, and perhaps the most unbelievable, forgiven.

Now, here is where I am going to step on some toes, and I really hope that I don’t offend, but I am sure that I will, so I apologize in advance.

All of the things I did, were means of protecting myself. That became the overwhelming purpose of my life. It became more important than my wife, my son, my marriage, or any other relationship. I was neatly cocooned and nothing got in. Nothing could hurt me.

Protecting yourself is not a valid reason to sin against your spouse, and refusing your spouse is sin. The scripture doesn’t say “Don’t deprive if”. It just says “Don’t deprive”.

You don’t get a pass just because it might be difficult. Pornography is difficult for some men to give up. I still struggle regularly with anger. IT ISN’T EASY. We refer to those things in our life as “struggles” for a reason.

For the record, the example Paul wrote about could have been written about my my wife and I. I expected my marriage to end when I confessed my sins to my wife. To be perfectly honest, I hurt enough that I might have even hoped that it would end. God had a different plan, and we are closer than we have ever been.

Now, some of you are already forming the words, “yes, but I never hurt my husband the way you describe”. I can assure you that is probably correct. Still, if you refuse him because he hurt you, then you still end up in the same circle of hurt, and ultimately it doesn’t matter who’s sin was first.

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Paul Byerly July 3, 2016 at 9:05 am

@Doug – It’s interesting that we tend to see our own sins as struggles to be worked through while we look at those who sin against us and expect them to stop this instant. Gotta love the double standard.
Who sinned first is irrelevant – the question is who is going to change first?
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libl July 3, 2016 at 12:40 pm

But, it isn’t a double standard! It is a consequence to an action. Would you tell a wife who’s husband is beating her every day to have sex with him? What if he was sleeping with hookers? Granted, those are more extreme examples, but my point is no wife should HAVE to have sex with a husband who(s sexuality is elsewhere. And no wife should have to put herself into a position of vulnerability with a husband who is hurting her.

It isn’t about paying back sin with sin. She may very well desire very much sex with her husband but will not allow herself to be used that way when he has been using pornography.

And it isn’t her refusing sex that ended the marriage. It is his choosing porn over fidelity.

I simply cannot wrap my head around your conclusion that sex must continue no matter how bad his unrepentant porn use is!

No, it should not be used to punish him or put up walls, but sex isn’t just this physical thing. Especially for women it requires a lot more. If she can’t trust him, doesn’t feel his love, believes he is breaking marriage vows, is perhaps even afraid, or feels do sick to her stomach over the whole issue it is downright abusive to expect her to put out for the sake of “not sinning back.”

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Paul Byerly July 3, 2016 at 3:43 pm

@libl – Would you expect a wife with a husband going to hookers to stay married, share the same bed, and do nothing more than saying no to sex? I’m saying JUST saying no to sex is never an acceptable answer. It’s either too much or too little, and either way, it’s not right.
I am NOT saying she needs to ignore his sin and keep having sex. I’m saying she needs to deal with his sin properly. If saying no to sex causes her to think she’s done enough, he’s getting off the hook.
Does that make sense?
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libl July 5, 2016 at 11:32 am

Yes, it does. Just closing up shop isn’t enough. But that isn’t the vibe I am getting here. I am getting the idea that you and others are saying she ought not to stop having sex with him regardless of how she feels or how bad his problem is.

I grabbed this quote from Sheila’s latest post:

“You’re not obligated to submit to your spouse sexually when the foundations of your relationship have been destroyed. Don’t feel pressure to work on your sex life before work goes into restoring the foundations of your relationship.”

http://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2016/07/marriage-recovery-after-addiction/

This is what I am talking about. I looked up other Christian marriage bloggers and some threads on The Marriage Bed message board and it seems fairly common practice that once porn use is discovered, intimacy is shattered and many wives do not feel they can be sexual with their husbands until a road to recovery begins to be paved.

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Paul Byerly July 5, 2016 at 7:13 pm

@libl – If we are talking actually working on the marriage, as in getting help from someone else, then I’m 100% with you.
Far too often ending sex is the only thing done. There is no getting help and she may be as resistant or more so than he is to get help. Shame and embarrassment can keep them from doing what they need to do.
I’m not going to say it’s impossible for a couple to get past this on their own, but it’s a rare couple that can do it and it’s a bad plan for any couple to try.
On the other side of what you are saying, I recently had contact with a couple where he decided unilaterally that they should go a number of months without sex due to his porn struggles. The wife was NOT in favour of this, and I think he was directly violating 1 Cor 7 in his decision. Had he talked with her and explained what he was thinking and why she might have been willing, but just being told no sex was not to her liking. So at least some women don’t see porn as a reason to end sexual intimacy.
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Doug July 3, 2016 at 1:59 pm

libl,

That is a circular argument. First, pornography is not the same as physical abuse or sleeping with prostitutes. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. It is an awful thing in it’s own right, but a little bit of reality is called for in that comparison.

I don’t think anyone is saying to “put out” for the sake of not sinning back. If that would be the only motive you can find, then you need to get out of the marriage. Period. End of statement. You are right that sex isn’t just physical, but there is a physical aspect of it that can not be separated out. You are also right that no woman should have to have sex with her husband, whether he is a porn user, or anything else. That is the way with all sin. You don’t have to do the right thing.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that we are called to deal with our own sin, and forgive others theirs. I know that for me to totally repair my marriage, that was the only path forward, and in my case, thank God, it worked. I also know that I had to trust God with it, because I will tell you, I was frightened. I expected it to be over. Instead, the circle of hurt was broken. I don’t understand how it worked. I don’t know that it would work in all marriages, but I cant imagine any that had more hurt buried in them than mine did. I had good reason to leave it 20 years ago, but instead got in that circle of hurt for those same 20 years. What I should have done then, was to forgive, or leave. Instead, I stayed in a broken marriage and made excuses for my behavior.

I do believe in miracles, because my marriage is one. I didn’t fix it, but I did what I was convicted to do, and I trusted God, no matter what, to do what was best. I didn’t know what that would look like at the time but I believed that anything was better than where I was. I can’t tell you what to do. I cant tell you how to trust with your heart and body when that trust has been totally destroyed. I have been on both sides of the trust issue, and you would think I would have some insight, but I don’t. All I can say is that if you can’t believe the best of your husband, despite his sins, that you are likely to remain where you are. Even if he fixes this one, he will sin again, if not with porn, then in some other manner. If your commitment to him is contingent on him not sinning, then you really aren’t committed to him.

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M July 4, 2016 at 6:39 am

This article resonates with me because, even though I’m not the wife in the story, I feel like her story is mine. When my husband confessed to me, I was not expecting it. I had no idea about his porn use, but I knew something was wrong. He was constantly angry, volatile, checked out of life with our kids. We were both in church for a lifetime, so it was a house full of what I like to call “church sins”–not the big ones, but everything about our relationship was just not right. I began to pray–really pray. Over that summer, he confessed to me one night. It was the week of Ashley Madison, and I believe God opened up the way for us to get healing.

When he talked to me, immediately I felt compassion for him and I forgave him. We talked, and I asked some questions, and he was truly repentant. God gave me grace for that night.

The next day, fear set in. I felt hurt and rejected. Also alone, because there was no safe environment to get help. I cruised websites like Lori & Paul’s, J & Sheila’s looking for answers. And I came up with more questions.

Long story short, every other day was a little like this for a week or so. I cried a lot, and I stayed close to God. I told my husband how his sin made me feel, and we had a lot of mini-discussions and text discussions. In the end, God gave me the compassion and grace to love him instead of leave him or deny him. Why? Because something changed. He was no longer volatile, angry, hurtful to our family. I saw actual change and I felt like it was safe to forgive–as many times as it took. I forgave a million times that summer, it felt like. But I am thankful to have my husband back.

I know that addictions always look for ways back in, but I feel confident that now we have weapons to fight those battles as a couple. I would encourage every wife battling her husband’s porn use to take the stance of humility, prayer, and forgiveness before God *Before* she chooses what to allow/disallow with her marriage. God is not in a hurry. Don’t be in a hurry. Saying you need time and defining that time within reason is safe, kind, and necessary. Asking him to pray for you is also a good, humbling, necessary experience for him. I understand that everyone who reads this post may or may not believe in God, but this is what worked for me.

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Paul Byerly July 4, 2016 at 1:46 pm

@M – Thank you for a glimpse of what healing looks like in the real world. It’s not clean, pretty, or straightforward, is it?
And you are right we should not be in a hurry. One or both spouses may be tempted to push the process to get past the pain and confusion. The problem is this can become burying rather than working through. Real healing requires looking at the pain and living in it for a time. It’s no fun, but it means when we move on we can really move on.
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IntimacySeeker July 5, 2016 at 7:12 am

The wife in the story sees sex as showing love and forgiveness and as bearing God’s image. It brings to mind the story of the prodigal son. Many have heard this story from the perspective that the son repents SO THAT he’ll receive forgiveness and grace. Others understand that the son repents BECAUSE the grace and forgiveness is already there. I think this is what Paul relates to in his comment about the wife’s response being a stronger preventative than guilt and remorse.

Our response to a husband’s confession seems to hinge on how we view sex. Some may see sex as putting themselves at risk. Some may think they can “fix” their husband by having lots of sex with him. Some may see it as condoning his behavior. Some may see it as joining their husband in the battle.

Our views about sex are based on our histories and our journeys in our faith and in our marriages. There seems to be an implication that we should have the resources for the “perfect” response shown by the wife in the story. I think many of us would need the assistance of a professional to work our way through this.

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Paul Byerly July 5, 2016 at 7:32 pm

@IntimacySeeker – I think that’s all spot on.
Hopefully, her response is also in part about his heart. Is he repentant, or feeling guilty? Did he come forward or get caught? Is he excusing his actions or owning them 100%?
I also think there’s a big difference between the first time and the hundredth time. Likewise for a minor slip quickly confessed and a huge slip not mentioned.
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Christina Rhoads July 5, 2016 at 8:53 am

There is so much pain and heat in some of the above conversations. I can feel the tension through the computer…
How about this,
When my husband came to me to confess his porn addiction, the first thing I said was…”Okay, what are we going to do about it?”. From then on we worked together overcoming his issue, reasons for getting into porn and my issues with sex. Once it was out in the open it was no longer “His” issue, it immediately became “Our” issue. It is simple, yet hard, deep work.

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Paul Byerly July 5, 2016 at 7:33 pm

@Christina Rhoads – Excellent. It would be good if every couple could do it as you did. Unfortunately, some don’t have it in them.
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libl July 11, 2016 at 5:48 pm

Paul, what do you suggest to a wife whose husband watches mainstream tv shows full of orgies, full nudity, sex, lesbianism, rape, etc. I flipped out when he watched Game of Thrones so he quit and knows I loathe these kind of shows (Gray area porn), but watched Tudors and is now watching the graphic Marco Polo series. One of the scenes shows around 20 women at one time fully nude!! We have discussed this before. He knows how much I hate it and think it is a sin to watch these things. How I think viewing hundreds of naked women in his life and seeing sinful sexual situations in pornographic clarity is just wrong and it hurts me. But, he simply says he doesn’t watch it for that and continues despite my feelings.

Not separation or divorce-worthy, of course, but how is a wife to have sex under these circumstances?! I feel disrespected. He thinks I am over reacting. Do I just ignore this? How can I?! We’ve been over this. We have spoken to a couple of pastors. It is a road block now.

All I can do is weakly trust that he looks away or it doesn’t affect him. I just want to throw the TV out the window. I want to be the only woman he sees nude. And now I want to sleep on the couch tonight. I hate these shows. Hate them!

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Paul Byerly July 14, 2016 at 11:59 am

@libl – A very difficult issue. Some men enjoy the grit and action of these shows and really don’t watch for the nudity and sex. If they could get the same thing with a fraction of the sexuality they would be happy to do so. I’m not saying that is good, but it’s not the same as using the shows as an excuse to see lightweight porn. For most men, the sex part of the shows is not the primary draw but that may actually be worse because it means they think it’s not affecting them and it is.
It would certainly be nice if he understood your feelings and cared enough about them to not watch these shows. The other factors here are his need for the adventure and not wanting to feel you get to control what he does. So there’s a lot at play here.
Your best bet is to tell him his watching the shows makes you feel he doesn’t care about you, your feelings, your needs, or your shared sex life. Tell him he can label it as overreacting if he likes, but it’s how you feel and it affects how you feel about him. Then drop it and treat him the best you can given how his actions make you feel. Not addressing it for a while might give me some face-saving room and allow him to drop the shows over time. And it might not.
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Lauren July 14, 2016 at 9:57 am

Hmmmm I am pretty sure I thought about SEX A LOT through my teens and now I am a 20 something lady and its hardly changed! I thought gosh I must be alone until we had this purity chat and discovered thinking about sex serveral or more times a day is about normal! The culture dicates that men are entitled to women and that their emotions are some weakness or makes them gay! QQQQQ porn he looks at images that say nothing like errrr I want to be on top or I hate that. He doesn’t have deal with crying while climaxing in front of a real woman. The image/ video cannot respond. The strange thing is a man and I mean a real man that isn’t afraid to have his lady dicate play regularly in the bedroom or can’t express emotions during sex is really weak. Women secretly find them unattractive and seek out affairs with men that express them selves during sex or find her sex drive attractive. I have seen this situation over and over.

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